LOS ANGELES -- The Haier Shooting Stars competition at All-Star Saturday Night always seems to come down to the half-court shot. And perhaps the real winner this year was the law of averages.
Defending champion Team Texas had the competition's best first-round time, 31.8 seconds, because TNT analyst and former Rocket Kenny Smith hit the team's first half-court shot. But in the final round, Texas didn't hit any of its 18 attempts from half-court before the 1:20 time limit was reached.
That gave Team Atlanta, which had a final-round time of 1:10 while making the half-court shot on its 18th attempt, its first Shooting Stars title in the 10-year history of the competition.
Atlanta looked like it was going to go home with second place, especially when Texas, led by Mavs All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, took just five attempts to make the first four shots of its round. But sometimes you win because the other team fails.
In the end, the Hawks' Al Horford was the hero for Atlanta. He hit the half-court shot on his team's 18th attempt in the final round after hitting it on his team's sixth try in the first round. Horford was joined by Atlanta Dream guard Coco Miller, who hit three of her four shots on the first try, and former Hawk (and NBA TV analyst) Steve Smith, who shot 2-for-5 from the top of the key.
"It was fun to beat Kenny Smith, so we don't have to hear his mouth," Steve Smith said.
"He was doing a lot of talk in the locker room for and questioning if I should be in this shooting contest or not," Horford added. "There you go, Kenny."
Team Los Angeles (55.8 seconds) and Team Chicago (1:06) were each eliminated in the first round because they struggled with the half-court shot. L.A. took nine attempts to make it, while Chicago took 16 attempts. Each of their times would have won in the final round.
Texas' Roneeka Hodges of the San Antonio Silver Stars may have been the best shooter of the night. She hit four of her five shots from the right wing and right corner. But as always, how well a player soots from the first five spots on the floor doesn't matter much.
It always comes down to the half-court shot.
-- John Schuhmann
Team Atlanta: Al Horford (Hawks), Coco Miller (WNBA's Atlanta Dream), Steve Smith (Legend)
Team Chicago: Taj Gibson (Bulls), Cathrine Kraayveld (WNBA's Chicago Sky), Steve Kerr (Legend)
Team Los Angeles: Pau Gasol (Lakers), Tina Thompson (WNBA's L.A. Sparks), Rick Fox (Legend)
Team Texas: Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks), Roneeka Hodges (WNBA's S.A. Silver Stars), Kenny Smith (Legend)
2010: Hometown team takes title
Four years later, Dirk Nowitzki finally got his championship on the court at American Airlines Center.
Nowitzki joined Becky Hammon of the WNBA San Antonio Silver Stars and former Houston Rockets star Kenny Smith to lead Team Texas to victory in the Haier Shooting Stars competition on All-Star Saturday Night. The win came four years after his Dallas Mavericks lost the 2006 NBA Finals to the Miami Heat on the same floor.
2009: Detroit team rolls in Phoenix
The team from Phoenix was almost perfect in the eighth annual Haier Shooting Stars competition at All-Star Saturday Night. But almost doesn't count, and Team Detroit came away with its second win in the last three years.
The home team, Phoenix, hit its first five shots and made it to halfcourt in just 14 seconds, but the halfcourt heave was the team's undoing. The three shooters from Phoenix -- Leandro Barbosa, Dan Majerle and Tangela Smith -- needed more than 20 attempts there before Majerle finally sank one. By that time, Team Detroit was celebrating its victory.
2008: Team San Antonio rules
Tim Duncan and David Robinson are no strangers to winning with one another, so, with the help of San Antonio Silver Stars sharpshooter Becky Hammon, it's no wonder they won yet another crown. After an impressive run in the first round, Team San Antonio took care of business in the Shooting Stars challenge in New Orleans against Team Chicago, as Duncan drained a half-court shot to give the Texas threesome a time of 35.8 seconds.
2007: Team Detroit takes over Vegas
Team Detroit won the Shooting Stars challenge in Las Vegas by default as Team Chicago took its shots out of order in the final round. The team of Bill Laimbeer, Chauncey Billups and Swin Cash had the second-best first-round time by finishing the six-shot course in 1:06 and then needed just 50.5 seconds to complete its final-round run.
Chicago had the best first-round time (48.9 seconds), followed by Detroit, defending champion San Antonio (1:32) and Los Angeles (2:00).
2006: Team San Antonio takes title in Houston
Team San Antonio dominated the competition in Houston with a record-setting time of 25.1 seconds. Tony Parker drilled the half-court shot on his first attempt to ice the contest.
The San Antonio trio, comprised of Parker, NBA legend Steve Kerr and the Silver Stars' Kendra Wecker, finished more than 15 seconds ahead of Team Los Angeles. Team Houston finished the six-shot course in 47.2 seconds, and last year's winners, Team Phoenix, took 47.7 ticks to hit all six buckets.
2005: Phoenix squad flies high in Denver
WNBA Rookie of the Year Diana Taurasi of the Mercury, current Suns forward Shawn Marion and Phoenix legend Dan Majerle ran away with the Shooting Stars title in 2005 in Denver, completing the competition in a mere 28 seconds.
The Phoenix triumvirate wowed the crowd, finishing 16 seconds ahead of second-place Denver. The Detroit squad came in third while the defending champs, the Lakers, were fourth.